Among the numerous construction projects in Qatar is Lusail, an entire planned city emerging from the sand about 15km to the North of Doha. When this Future City is complete it is intended to be home to about a quarter of a million inhabitants living and working in a very advanced, green and sustainable environment. It is not so unusual even in more populous countries for a new urban area to be created - Milton Keynes, which only formally came into existence as a new town in 1967, has roughly that population today. However, whilst the English new town is built on an existing landscape with established sizeable populations and a long history, the transformation of the entire geography in Al Daayen looks set to be much more radical.
Curious to see what's actually there, on Friday I went with a colleague, Mohammad Jumah, to explore a little of the construction site. Care is needed because the whole place is usually reverberating to the sounds of construction, but Friday is the one day when it stops. We came up from Katara Cultural Village and followed the signs to Lusail, many of them are obviously temporary, but we reached the outskirts without much difficulty and very few vehicles in sight.
One day there will be grand avenues that stretch great distances, but for the moment you can expect the way to be not so straightforward:
It feels strange to be navigating through junctions with fully-functioning sets of traffic lights.
However, once in the more central area you can start to see it taking shape, even with wide pavements(!)
On the right hand side there's a Katara Hospitality building, which looks fairly plain, but all eyes are on a future landmark that'll be next to the marina.
That is yet to ascend, but there's already a couple of interesting towers rising up on the left, their skeletal framework suggesting an organic design.
We carried on to the marina, which is already up and running and was host to the Qatar International Boat Show a few days earlier.
On the approach to the marina, we found few vehicles, so parking was easy.
Looking back towards the central area, we can see advertising boards on the left, displaying glossy images of a thriving commercial district. It boasts sustainable business and many other attractions, but for the moment look through the gaps and you'll see there's a long way to go
And reaching the end of the display opens up wide expanses that have been hardly touched:
Doha had heavy rain this past week and it's left some muddy pools. The cluster of towers in the distance are on The Pearl, another construction site, of course, but substantially complete.
The marina itself is up and running with a reception area nestling among avenues of palms with benches dotted around to relax at leisure.
Around the corner (hidden from view) there was a small outlet selling snacks. The marina itself looks settled and quite pleasant.
Access is via a couple of entrances (only boat owners are allowed - Mohammad may be a prospective owner ... one day!)